CLEVELAND, Ohio—It's a busy day of gardening at Iowa Maple Elementary School in Cleveland.

  • Food Strong is combining the garden and the classroom to teach kids about healthy eating
  • The organization says it's a big step toward improving quality of life and health for children in low-income communities
  • Food Strong will be a part of a farmer’s market this Saturday in East Cleveland

The executive director for the organization says this is a big step in improving the quality of life and health for children in low-income communities.

I’ve seen kids not even want to touch soil before. I’ve seen kids not want to touch a vegetable before. Now you can’t even keep them out of the garden,” said Sara Continenza, Food Strong executive director. 

Sara Continenza is the executive director of Food Strong—a nonprofit that combines the classroom and the garden to educate young people on healthy eating.

Janelle Johnson and her sister Jayona, are students in the program. 

“I really didn’t even like vegetables, but after I came to this program, I actually started to learn to like different kinds of vegetables and stuff like that,” said Janelle Johnson.

Students say this used to just be an empty lot. Now, it’s a garden full of fresh vegetables. 

“You’re watching them pick green peppers and tomatoes and eat them like apples and can’t wait to come home and eat healthy recipes with their families, and to watch a transformation such as that with just a little bit of input, has been really dramatic. And I love seeing it,” said Continenza.

Continenza says she sees children growing their own food not just as a way to improve their quality of life, but communities as a whole.

“For their own physical wellness, for their communities, for all types of things that can be improved,” said Continenza. “Food becomes the vehicle that we use to improve lives in inner-city communities.” 

It’s a program that’s growing futures —not just food— which these kids are very excited to show off.

Food Strong will be part of the Coit Road Farmer’s Market in East Cleveland this Saturday.